Newsportal - Ruhr-Universität Bochum
How we deal with the crisis
Dear students, employees and friends of Ruhr-Universität Bochum,
First corona and then a cyber attack – Ruhr-Universität is currently experiencing the worst crisis in its history. Every one of you is wondering: what’s going to happen next? Therefore, I would like to provide a perspective of how we can cope with this dual crisis and what we have to prepare ourselves for in the long term.
This is how we deal with the cyber attack
Cyberwar is raging worldwide. In recent years, many institutions have been attacked with encryption software. Behind these attacks are highly professional criminal organisations that usually try to extort money for the release of the code. We have now been victim of such an attack. Nobody is 100 per cent protected against them. Not even our own IT security researchers, who are among the most renowned in the world.
Good backup and early warning systems are indispensable, and we had implemented both in advance. By reacting quickly, we ensured that only a few servers were encrypted. And we were able to recover our data. Accordingly, the attack hadn’t hit us unprepared. We were able to limit the damage. As far as the attackers are concerned, their attack has failed. Our IT team did the right thing, defended us successfully and deserves our thanks! Whereas the attackers won’t earn one single cent. We won’t be blackmailed by anyone.
Restarting administrative operations
Still: it will take another few weeks to fully recover our IT infrastructure in accordance with our priorities. At the same time, a team of internal and external IT experts is working to create short-term interim solutions for vital operations, most importantly for email traffic, student services, and financial and personnel administration. We hope that we’ll thus soon be able to render our administration operational again.
Please note that we can’t make any definitive statements regarding dates. We don’t want to promise anything we can’t keep. And please note that we can only provide you with updates step by step, once individual solutions are actually available.
We will naturally also have to discuss which security gaps we must still close in order to be even better prepared against such attacks in future. As soon as we have the full report on the attack, we will communicate our case transparently – not least in order to help other universities to optimise their protective measures.
This is how the summer semester continues
The protection of our health remains our most vital goal. Ruhr-Universität was one of the first universities in Germany to clear its campus in order to contain the pandemic as early as possible. Most notably, we successfully digitalised teaching within a very short time. This allows us to continue teaching without endangering our health.
Our digital curriculum is one of the largest in Germany. An internal survey among teachers confirms that their experience with the digital summer semester has been for the most part positive. Even though there are some teething problems due to system overload and limited email traffic, we will be able to continue teaching as planned. All in all, an excellent performance on the part of our IT department, our teaching staff and, last but not least, our Vice Rector for Teaching, Professor Kornelia Freitag. We greatly appreciate all their hard work!
What we must prepare for in the long term
I’m aware that you find it difficult to consider the achievements so far a success. It’s exhausting to talk to a monitor all day and struggle with technology. We miss socialising with other people. Our first-semester students in particular are missing out on all those experiences that make university life so enjoyable: spending time with others on campus, making new friends, exchanging ideas, discovering favourite places, becoming part of a large community.
More than anything, I hope that all this will soon be possible once again. But no-one can predict how the pandemic will progress in the longer term and when we can go back to normal. All universities have to get used to the idea that perhaps they won’t be able to conduct in-person classes in the upcoming winter semester. We will also have to discuss ways of compensating for disadvantages, especially in the early stages of a career, and for the stress that they cause. Still, in Bochum we are prepared. We’re going to go as digital as necessary, and remain as accessible and human as possible.
Motor of change
Our university’s core characteristic has prepared us for this long journey through the crisis: we have always known how to deal with constant change, ever since RUB was founded. We’ve been shaped by a region that is used to crises, we have reinvented ourselves again and again, we have shot to the top of the league table of Germany’s most research-driven universities, we have not only become a part, but even a motor of change for a new Ruhr area. All this has made us strong enough to face all challenges that lie ahead.
In other words: “Ruhr-Universität won’t let itself be defeated by hackers who lack any moral code,” as a colleague recently tweeted very aptly.
Stay courageous, stay patients and, first and foremost, stay healthy!
19 May 2020